What's the dress code for business school interviews? I've heard that for doctoral candidates in other disciplines, suits are overkill; however, I suspect that they are the norm for MBA interviews. So what about us business PhD interviewees?
I assume you're talking about a visit when you've not yet been accepted. The most prominent occasions for wearing a suit for faculty/PhD students are teaching and giving talks outside one's own department. I don't think it is the norm for interviewees in PhD programs. I would (and did) personally go business casual in this situation.
If you've already been accepted, I think neat casual is OK (no rapper pants or clothes with rips) and perhaps more practical. Profs and current PhD students will be more informal with you at this point, and they, for instance, might suggest taking a walk to their favorite coffee shop a half mile away.
I had an interview the other day on video conference the other day with faculty members and I dressed myself in a suit for that. Something I have realized painfully over the years through personal experience is that it is better to be over dressed than under dressed. You should never have to wonder what if I had worn a suit should something pan out not quite as planned as you would have liked to.
First impression is pretty important and counts in all fields, even in academia. I don't think you can go wrong with wearing suits - it is after all, business school. Professors are used to seeing b-school students in their classes dressed up for networking events, seminars, conferences, etc.
One of the reasons PhD programs want applicants to visit their programs is because they want to see how well they communicate with other people. Show them you have good communication skills, and simply ask them what their dress policy is. They will tell you what is expected. In fact, it is very common in academia to specifically spell out what dress attire is recommended for various events. All the departments are different.
I visited an Economics PhD program back in December wearing a suit, and the Director of the PhD program came in wearing jeans. He definitely surprised that I wore a suit, and I think it made him feel a little silly. I should have asked in that situation so both of us would have been more comfortable.
Recently I visited a Finance PhD program, and the director of that program told me via email that casual dress is fine for the day that I visit. That is how they would all be dressed. So, no jacket or tie, just dockers and button-up conservative shirt with white T-Shirt underneath, and a pair of nicely polished casual shoes (soft-soled). I fit right in with everybody else for that visit.
In retrospect, asking would indeed have been the way to go. However, I wound up in a brown/beige suit that I think was fine - sure, all the students were in jeans, but the other applicants were in suits as well. Given the program niche (health economics/management), I got the sense that both faculty and students were probably more laid back about the external appearance/presentation than in other business areas.
I also found it amusing how much they disliked MBA "kids."
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